James McGrath at AAR/SBL in Denver

James McGrath at AAR/SBL in Denver November 17, 2022

Here’s what I’m doing at the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature joint annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. The first of my two papers on Monday 21 November is in session S21-136 of the Q program unit, which will take place from 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM in Room 203 (Street Level) of the Convention Center (CC). Here are the title and abstract:

Q as a Source of Knowledge about John the Baptist

In her groundbreaking study Baptist Traditions and Q, Clare K. Rothschild argued that in the Q material in the New Testament we are dealing with teaching of John the Baptist that has been transferred to Jesus. The present paper will argue for a similar yet distinct conclusion, namely that much but not all of the Synoptic material identified as stemming from Q can so plausibly be ascribed to John due to the fact that Jesus was originally part of John’s movement and continued the practices and emphases of his mentor to a larger extent than is typically acknowledged. This conclusion does not preclude the possibility that individual sayings of the Baptist may have been ascribed to Jesus for precisely this reason. The approach adopted and conclusions argued for here, however, support a more wide-ranging conclusion, namely that the teaching of Jesus as a whole (and not only the Q material) constitutes an important source of information about the aims of the historical John the Baptist. This thesis will be supported by close inspection of several sayings attributed to Jesus in Q that cannot easily be ascribed to John because they address the relationship between John and Jesus, yet which indicate that Jesus understood his own message, activity, and authority to be linked to and a continuation of John’s.

Another paper that I will be presenting related to my current research is in session A21-329 of the Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity Unit program unit. The theme of the session is Texts and Identities in Late Antiquity and it takes place Monday 21 November, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM in Convention Center-109 (Street Level). Here are the title and abstract of my paper:

Abstract: There is a noticeable inconsistency when it comes to the use of sources from Late Antiquity as evidence for people and events in earlier times. The Talmudim, works of hagiography from Syriac Christians, and Mandaean sources may be evaluated in significantly different ways even by the same scholar. Our comparative study of how historical scholars treat Jewish, Christian, and Mandaean texts and traditions leads to common methodological principles that are equally applicable regardless of tradition. Applying them to Mandaean sources leads to the conclusion that Mandaean literature, when studied in an appropriately critical fashion, can be useful to historians interested in the figure of John the Baptist.

Michael Paulus will be leading a roundtable discussion of AI 2041 in which I am also a panelist. I blogged about it previously. Here are the details from the AAR program book:

Theme: AI and Religion in 2041
Saturday, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Hyatt Regency-Mineral D (Third Level)

This roundtable explores the book AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future (Currency, 2021), a work of technical forecasting and speculative fiction by AI expert Kai-Fu Lee and science fiction writer Chen Qiufan. Focusing on religious language, images, practices, and beliefs that are conspicuous in the book’s narratives, roundtable participants will discuss the interrelationship between religion and technology, possible futures for religion and spirituality with artificial intelligence, and the role of speculative narratives in shaping faith.

Also on AI:

Artificial sleep helps an AI retain what it has learned (just as sleep does for humans)

Evolution, AI, and Science

AI and Religion in 2041

AI 2041 Panel at #SBLAAR22 (and a Conversation with #BlenderBot about Religion)


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